Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments, is the latest high-profile leisure industry figure to back calls for VAT to be reduced to 5% to help the sector. Varney, whose company runs major attraction such as Madame Tussauds and Legoland, pointed out that Britain has slipped from the top five to number 11 as an international destination, as other countries look to cut their VAT rates. He told the Daily Telegraph: “If we cut VAT to 5pc on hotel rooms and visitor attractions, we could create 80,000 jobs, predominantly among 16-24 year olds of which one in five is currently out of work.” Varney reportedly raised the issue with tourism minister John Penrose and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, but was told “an instant cut would cost £1bn and they don’t want to do that right now”. The Merlin boss said he believed a VAT cut would pay for itself within three years by encouraging more tourism. It comes as the hospitality industry in the UK campaigns to reduce VAT for the sector. The Publican’s Morning Advertiser, sister title to M&C Report, has lodged a petition for VAT for be cut to 5% for hospitality business. More than 3,500 people have signed the petition to date. It can be viewed here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1198 Last month Treasury minister David Gauke promised to look at the arguments for cutting VAT for the hospitality sector, but stated reasons why it would be difficult to reduce the level.